Recap on the Kinzie Street protected bike lane


Cyclists ride eastbound in the Kinzie Street protected bike lane. Photo by Joshua Koonce.

It’s been two weeks since the Bike To Work Week Rally symbolically marked the opening of the Kinzie Street protected bike lane. Construction continued into this week.

I contacted Brian Steele, public information officer at the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), to answer some outstanding questions.

All construction will be done by today (except last night’s hail storm and inclement weather today may delay this). The last pieces to be installed are some bike symbols and green paint (actually an epoxy).

The most important questions

A lot of Chicagoans who use the bike lane want to know when the bridge deck will be treated so it’s less slippery and dangerous. Some commenters on The Chainlink saw this as the missing piece and that the protected bike lane’s not complete until the bridge is made bike friendly (like the new Randolph bridge). Brian said that “custom plates to fit the Kinzie bridge are being manufactured” and CDOT will receive them in August.

I haven’t read anyone asking about how many people rode their bikes on Kinzie Street before the transformation, or even questions about its cost, but both are important to planners, advocates, and probably politicians.

I was concerned about making sure CDOT counted the number of people cycling here before the project began, and then counting a couple times after the bike lane is completed. Brian mentioned that “413 total cyclists (348 eastbound and 65 westbound) were counted between 7-9 AM on Tuesday, May 10.” Construction began on June 5, 2011. Data from a 24-hour are not yet available. I’ll update Grid readers when there’s data about “after” usage. What effect will the bike lane upgrades have on ridership?

So, how much did 0.5 miles of Chicago’s first bidirectional protected bike lane cost?

  • $130,000 for flexible delineators (soft-hit bollards), green epoxy covering, bridge plates and bolts, modular curbs, traffic control and protection* (materials only, doesn’t include labor cost). Funded by a City mini capital program that had money budgeted but not yet allocated. No state or federal funding involved.
  • $10,000 for bicycle symbols, provided by SRAM Cycling Fund (materials only, doesn’t include labor cost).
  • Information on the cost of pavement markings and signage isn’t known at this time.
  • $30,835 of the $130,000 above was for 1,300 square feet of fiberglass plates.

My final question unfortunately had no answer: CDOT is still discussing the location of the next protected bike lane. I don’t know if they’re collecting feedback on locations, but read my list of locations and tell the Bicycle Program where one should go.

The choice should be for a more challenging place: it should be in a location where there are many documented bicycle crashes (find them on a map) and a location that will see fewer bicycle crashes because of a “protection upgrade” like Kinzie Street. Additionally, it should be in a location where the City can best realize its goals of mode shift and increasing the number of trips residents make by bicycle. While Kinzie Street is a good location because it helps improve access to downtown (a bicycling-heavy area that is consistently neglected and uncomfortable to ride to and within), it is not a high-crash street, nor do I believe we will see a major increase in cycling trips**.


As of Thursday, June 30, 2011, this bike box was awaiting bicycle symbols. Photo by Eric Pancer.

Photo gallery

See hundreds of pictures of the construction progress, and the final product:

*Traffic control and protection: “These terms refer to the cones, barrels, barricades, signs, message boards, vehicles, flaggers, etc. that may be used to provide temporary ‘traffic control’ through the construction area to in order to provide some ‘protection’ to the on-site workers.”

**Note: Kinzie Street may see an increase in cycling trips as a result of the protected bike lane, but some of these trips may have been rerouted from other streets like Grand Avenue or Lake Street. Transferred trips does not mean an increase in trips by bicycle.

Updated July 1, 2011, to add note about traffic control and protection and to list cost of pavement markings and signage. Updated July 25, 2011, to clarify funding source. Updated July 28, 2011, to add information on bike-friendly deck costs.

15 thoughts on “Recap on the Kinzie Street protected bike lane”

  1. Steven,
    Congrats on your new blog
    Good to see you keep asking questions. That first picture is a delight to look at.

    As far as new bike lanes go, I heard that they are looking at a cross Loop lane from River West to the Lakefront. Monroe was mentioned as a possibility.
    This source also mentioned that the other lanes weren’t necessarily downtown, but also in the wards of supportive aldermen. As of a few weeks ago, they had been identified and are being discussed with the respective alderman.

  2. Quick question, do you know if CDOT is going to lengthen the amount of time for the green light to turn left onto Kinzie from Milwaukee?

  3. I know that looking at crash data is a part of choosing candidates for safety improvements, but I always wonder two things: What if the conditions of the existing route are so bad that bicyclists rarely use it, thereby keeping the crash statistics deceptively low? Second, isn’t it a little twisted that we have to wait for people to be hurt or killed before figuring that a street is dangerous enough to warrant safety upgrades? (I know that’s not the actual thinking of most people involved here, but that’s the message you can read into it.)

    As for where to put the next protected bike lanes: I’d like to put in my plea for CDOT to make it easier to get into, around and out of the Loop by bicycle. There are thousands of people living within five miles of downtown who would probably give bike commuting a try if they didn’t have to risk life and limb once they were close to their workplace. The fact that there are NO bike lanes at all in the Loop (not even a shared bus/bike lane!) is a huge problem.

    So my request is that at least one bike lane be installed going in each cardinal direction within the Loop. I’m thinking Dearborn going north, Clark south, Washington east and Madison west. Or maybe State Street for lanes going both north and south? It’s one of the few streets that have two-way traffic, and also runs without interruption for many miles. State Street within the Loop currently has wide, multiple lanes that encourage cabs and cars to speed like it’s the Indy 500. Putting in a median, narrower lanes and bike paths would make it safer for all users.

  4. It’s purely anecdotal, but I’ve witnessed the aftermath of two crashes on Kinzie in the past week. First at the corner of Wells, the second this morning right where the Merchandise Mart loading dock comes out. Neither looked to result in serious injuries, although this morning’s cyclist had her head bandaged up.

    I can’t say I’m really surprised, apart from the inevitable learning period that it takes drivers to get used to the new alignment, that intersection with the Mart’s underground area needs some work. It is dark under there and difficult to see if somebody is coming out. To top it off, cyclists are routinely ignoring the stop sign there and all along the route, somebody yelled at me for daring to let a pedestrian cross the other day. I’ve spent the last few days with some toddlers and have some appropriate advice: if you guys can’t play nice, they’re going to take your new toy away.

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